How to Freeze Lemons, Zest, & Juice

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When life hands you lemons (or any kind of citrus), zest ’em, juice ’em, make all kinds of good things with ’em. Today we’re sharing recipes that feature citrus fruits.

Once upon a time, I grew up in a fairytale castle with a golden tree growing in the backyard….

Ok, so it wasn’t a castle, but gold really did grow in the backyard. Lemon gold. The lemon tree “came with the house,” as they say. The house my parents bought when I was 2 is where they still reside. That makes the lemon tree at least 38 years old and it’s still producing.

Hundreds of lemons every year are harvested from its branches. And since I moved back from the frozen tundra, I am the happy recipient of a king’s ransom of lemons. Considering that lemons are often $1 a piece at the stores, I’d say, yes, a king’s ransom.

Lemons and limes are different than their citrus cousins in that you don’t typically eat them fresh. (I have on many a day as a teenager when I forgot my key and climbed over the back fence to wait until my mom came home. But, my stories of eating whole lemons are for another post.) My point is that lemons and limes typically aren’t the fruit you just take a bite out of.

At least not if you’re a normal person.

Instead, you use them as garnish or take their zest and juice to enhance both savory and sweet recipes. They are flavoring, if you will.

Lemon Walnut Coffeecake

So, what do you do when you have a surplus of lemons?

Now, I know not all of you are spoiled to live in the Land of Eternal Sunshine where trees of gold sprout in the backyard. But, I have lived in the frozen tundra we call Kansas, and I know that while living there, I found lemons on sale from time to time, so I stocked up. Because I could. And because I love lemons. And probably because I missed home.

So, what do you do when you have a surplus of lemons?

Or limes, or oranges, or grapefruit, for that matter. Winter is citrus season, so no matter where you live (north of the equator), you should be finding citrus at a lower price than normal right about now. Stock up when you see a good sale. If you can eat the citrus fresh (like with oranges or grapefruits) go for it.

But no matter the variety, I suggest these two wonderfully, freezer friendly options:

1. Zest the citrus fruit.

Citrus zest contains a huge amount of flavor. It’s the colorful, oily part of the fruit’s skin. Don’t go too deep, into the white, that is bitter. Just scrape off the zest with a zester or microplane. Store it in an airtight container in your freezer to use in recipes throughout the coming months. Thanks to my friend Jessika for the tip! It has been a wonderful asset to my cooking.

You can do this for lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges, just store the different kinds separately.

2. Juice the fruit.

This year I finally broke down and bought a  new power juicer for citrus. Prior to that purchase the kids and I were using an antique citrus juicer with the well, similar to this style, but in milk glass. A family heirloom that is better to stay that way.

Plus, using a power juicer is so much quicker. Throughout the last few months we’ve had Valencia oranges and lemons from our produce co-op to juice as well as Meyer lemons from Dad’s tree.

You can use the juice right away or freeze it in small containers for later use. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays, transfer the lemon cubes to another container or a ziploc bag and return it to the freezer.

Favorite Citrus Recipes

Use the juice and/or zest in these family favorites:

And use the fruit in these:

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Why did I never think to freeze the zest ?!? Great tip!

  2. WOW, I try not to get too jealous of other people, but to be able to have a lemon and/or lime trees in the back yard…I’m jealous. I live in PA and lemon trees just do not grow here. Oh the possibilities when you don’t have to pay the ridiculous price; they can be so expensive.

    I submitted a great grilling recipe:

    Thanks for the linkup.

  3. Thank you for hosting. I shared my lemon pepper shrimp scampi. I don’t have it often due to the price of shrimp. It’s a treat.

  4. Great tips! Did you know that by just adding a slice of lemon to water at the dinner table helps in digestion? I love that tip:-)

  5. Thanks for hosting! and for reminding me about the lime ginger marmalade recipe that I linked up. I really need to make that again. YUM!

  6. Dia says

    Oh, I am envious of the lemon tree. That would be so awesome compared to our pines!
    Thanks for the recipes, can’t wait to try them. I even found some Meyer lemons at Walmart recently that I get to try for the first time!

  7. I was so happy to see this post in my email this morning! I absolutely LOVE baking and cooking with lemons. My friends always joke with me and say “did you add lemon to it” πŸ™‚ I submitted my Skinny Blueberry Lemon Muffins. They freezer perfectly too!

  8. Beth says

    Oh honey, Kansas City is hardly the frozen tundra. πŸ™‚

  9. Erika says

    Perfect timing! I just harvested a ‘kings ransom’ of limes from our tree in Maui! I was thinking about dehydrating the zest, but freezing it seems like a better option for on the fly baking. Thanks for the post! =)

  10. Margie says

    If your oven has a β€œproof” setting, you can spread the zest on parchment paper and set for an hour or so, when it is cooled, store in a spice jar. ?

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